Judging Beer

Bev Blackwood - I started another round of my BJCP judging class this weekend.

This class is designed to have participants learn how to fill out a scoresheet (there is a right way and a wrong way), learn about beer styles, broaden their palates and gain familiarity with common beer flaws. The only way to make that happen is through practice.Yes, I am saying you should drink beer in order to become a good judge of beer.However, it’s not as simple as drinking one of everything and proclaiming yourself to be an expert.

When I look back at my early beer sampling, I recall how unfocused I was, basically trying beers at random and making mental notes as to which I liked and which I didn’t. That serves the beginner well up to a point, but when someone asked me why I liked one beer over another, I found myself at a loss for words. I needed a resource to consult, so I bought Michael Jackson’s Beer Companion, which enlightened my tasting and suggested new beers to broaden my horizons. Even so, my first try at appreciating a classic English barleywine, Thomas Hardy, resulted in my pouring it down the drain.I wasn’t ready to take off the training wheels just yet.It was only when I started homebrewing that I began to gain the appreciation for the craft and also the terminology to put my passion for the beverage into words. Michael Jackson is a great way to build your beer vocabulary, as his mastery of words has few parallels in the world of beer journalism, but knowingthe ingredients and process first hand gives your opinions a depth of experience that simply drinking beer can’t provide.

My class is held at our local homebrew shop DeFalco’s, which is one of the oldest (and in my opinion the best) in the nation. Meeting there has the benefit of allowing me to grab a grain sample for the class while we’re tasting to illustrate exactly where a flavor is coming from in a beer.It’s that tying together of flavors to sources that enable experienced judges or beer lovers to determine why they like one beer more than another and to know what other beers they might like as a result.

Naturally, in class we really get down to picking apart a beer and then doing the hard work of translating those observations into a readable and informative judgment as to how a beer fits into a style… or doesn’t!Yes, beer is a hedonistic pleasure at its most base level, but a little knowledge opens whole new worlds of understanding and appreciation, which is what Beer Geeks brings us with every new episode!

The author:

Bev Blackwood II is the Southwest Brewing News Contributing Editor for Texas and has been covering Texas beers for 17 years An award winning home brewer, Bev has also brewed professionally at St. Arnold Brewing Company and was part of the team that brought home Saint Arnold’s first Great American Beer Festival gold medal in 2007. A long time member of Houston’s premiere homebrew club, the Foam Rangers, Bev teaches their Beer Judge Certification Program course and has also taught at Rice University’s Glasscock School of Continuing Studies.

The views and opinions expressed herein are those of the author's alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of Ora Media, LLC, its affiliates, or its employees.

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